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Mariska Hargitay
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Mariska Hargitay stars as Det. Olivia Benson in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Entries by Mariska Hargitay


(161) Comments | Posted June 3, 2013 | 1:09 PM

Co-authored with Kym Worthy

Despite the progress we as a nation have made in the movement to end sexual violence, including the recent passage of a more inclusive Violence Against Women Act, much work remains to be done.

Few examples are as clear - or as quantifiable - as...

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Join Me in Supporting Survivors of Child Abuse With a Simple Act of Kindness

(62) Comments | Posted September 18, 2012 | 9:41 AM

Thirty reports of child abuse will be made in the five minutes it takes you to read this article. That's 3.3 million reports each year, involving six million children. In this country, five children die every day as a result of child abuse and neglect.

When I began my...

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Violence Against Women Act Helps Restore Lives

(255) Comments | Posted April 26, 2012 | 11:25 AM

Our Senators must act now to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the landmark achievement in the movement to end violence against women and girls. VAWA revolutionized the way violent crimes against women are prosecuted and prevented, reshaped the way victims receive services and transformed the way communities respond to survivors.

Authored by then-Senator Joseph Biden and signed into law in 1994, VAWA was the first federal legislation to acknowledge domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes. It created the first federal funding stream to support rape crisis centers across the country. VAWA provided federal resources to encourage coordinated community responses to combating violence, and it saved money while saving lives: nearly $12.6 billion in averted social costs in its first six years alone.

Subsequent reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005 -- widely supported in both chambers of Congress and by Democratic and Republican presidents alike -- created a legal assistance program for victims, broadened the definition of violence against women to include dating violence and stalking, implemented culturally- and linguistically-specific services for communities, and broadened VAWA service provisions to include children and teenagers.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, S.1925, introduced in 2011 by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), is the result of more than two years of work by a coalition of over 300 advocacy groups. Contributing their voices, experience and expertise, over 2,000 advocates and survivors from across the country identified the most pressing needs of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Advocates, police, prosecutors and survivors support S.1925 because it reflects their vision -- and their commitment to ending violence.

Over the past several months, Senators from both parties have waged a dismaying battle over provisions in S.1925 regarding protections for members of the LGBTQ, immigrant and Native American communities. Partisan maneuvering must not derail an opportunity to hold defendants accountable, to prevent future violence, and to keep members of these communities safe and, if they suffer horrible trauma, provide them with the life-saving and transformative services they deserve.

Restricting VAWA's protections only to certain members of our communities will defeat its very purpose -- to end sexual and domestic violence and the suffering they bring. These restrictions also hamper the criminal justice system's ability to prosecute defendants and prevent future crimes. We must not allow political arguments to erode the progress our country has made toward that goal in the seventeen years since VAWA became law.

VAWA has protected, improved and restored lives. Reauthorization sends the message that our communities, our families -- and all people -- must be safe; that survivors must have the tools to heal and reclaim their lives; that we must engage the next generation in this effort -- and that breaking the cycle of violence is an unassailable national priority. To send any other message is unconscionable.

Published first at

Hargitay is the Founder & President of the Joyful Heart Foundation and the Emmy Award-winning star of 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.' You can watch a video of her discussing VAWA

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There Is No Excuse

(169) Comments | Posted April 24, 2012 | 8:25 AM

Italy, 1992. A 45-year-old driving instructor picks up an 18-year-old girl for her first lesson, takes her to an isolated road, pulls her out of the car, wrestles her out of one leg of her jeans and rapes her. She courageously tells her parents. They help and support her in...

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Personal Fouls

(222) Comments | Posted January 25, 2012 | 9:00 AM

In September 2011, less than two months before the dismaying news started emerging from State College, Pennsylvania, NBC aired an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that tackled the rarely discussed topic of sexual abuse of boys and men. "Personal Fouls" told the story of a long-time, respected...

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Telling Amy's Story -- It's Time to Talk

(149) Comments | Posted December 8, 2010 | 7:51 AM

On November 19, 2010, a 20-year-old college student named Jenni-Lyn Watson was killed while she was home in New York for Thanksgiving break. Police arrested her 21-year-old ex-boyfriend, who they say was upset about Watson's wishes to end their relationship. Police say he had left her body in a park...

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Ending the Backlog

(75) Comments | Posted September 28, 2010 | 8:09 AM

Imagine the unimaginable: You've been raped. You manage to pull yourself together to report your rape to the police or a hospital. You tell them what happened, reliving the nightmare. You receive essential medical attention. Then, for the next four to six hours, you submit to the collection of DNA...

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How We Can All Help Women in the Congo

(60) Comments | Posted March 17, 2010 | 11:05 AM

The epidemic of rape and sexual violence in the Congo takes center stage in an all-new episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, airing on Wednesday night.

Portraying the world's worst violence against women -- taking place half a world away in Central Africa -- in a TV show...

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Law & Order: SVU Takes On the Issue of Child Soldiers and Sex Slaves in Africa

(17) Comments | Posted March 30, 2009 | 12:30 PM

Co-authored by John Prendergast, Co-founder, The Enough Project

It's midnight. We are in a studio in North Bergen, New Jersey, filming take after take of a scene for an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. We're tired. It's the fourteenth hour of what will be a sixteen-hour day....

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Sexual Violence and Illuminating the Road to Health and Happiness

(33) Comments | Posted June 1, 2007 | 7:19 PM

Like most people these days, I can admit to a dependency issue with email. I have a computer in my office, a laptop at home and a Blackberry in my pocket. I am a lousy typist, but these gadgets keep me connected to my friends, family and business associates. And,...

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What Can I Gain from My Fear?

(14) Comments | Posted September 15, 2006 | 7:31 PM

I had a very strong father that has always been very encouraging and said "If you just put your mind to things, you can do it." I've always been taught that we can overcome anything and that nothing is bigger than we are.

I think that being an athlete...

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